A Cultural Critique of the Economic Concept of Development

by: Rica C. Santos

       What do we mean by economic development? A plethora of definitions abound, however, there is no official definition of the term. In economics, it is synonymous with maintaining increases in gross national product (GNP), sustaining the growth of income per capita, and ensuring continuous rise in real per capita GNP. Contemporary models of development and underdevelopment include: the New Growth Theory, Underdevelopment as a Coordination Failure Theory, Multiple Equilibria, the Big Push, and Kremer’s O-Ring Theory. The strategies proposed by these current models highlight the following: improved coordination among agents (groups of firms, or workers, or firms and workers), increasing returns to scale, a more efficient division of labor, forms of industrial organization other than perfect competition, long-run profitability, and the optimality of equilibria (Todaro and Smith, 2003: 15 and 146). Development models, particularly in the discipline of economics, put primacy on the quantitative criteria in ascertaining whether or not a specified geographic area is undergoing the process of development or not.

Conflicting opinions as to what hinders the development of developing nations arise from the different strands of thought, notwithstanding, what can be gleaned from these contemporary models is the underlying assumption that paying heed to their prescriptions will ultimately shepherd any country into economic development, and by economic development they all refer to the stages of economic growth that historically had been followed by the advanced economies. In that sense, these theories to the study of economic development claim the universality of their remedies and their definition of economic growth, and it is in this regard that these competing approaches are similar.

In 1952, Economic Development and Cultural Change, the first issue of the first journal devoted to the field of development economics was launched. Literature on economic development was dominated by the view that emulation of the advanced economies’ cultural institutions was necessary to enable the developing nations to tread along an economic growth path followed by these countries. The intellectual representation of modernization and its close association with economic development is to be blamed for this duplication-of-the-Western-institutions view that dominates current development models. Instrumental in this process are the following: first, the “Eurocentric position” which maintains that Europe’s all-encompassing influence is rooted in the defining features of their culture and rationality, and second, the conception of Europe as the “historical point of reference” in which all processes of change beginning 600 years ago radiated from it. The concepts of ‘economic development’, ‘modernisation’, and ‘industrialisation’ are allusions to cultural homogenization, the creation of a  borderless world, and the genesis of a world that replicates the principles and culture in the Western hemisphere (Thompson, 2001: para. 3, 5, and 15). The birth of the modern concept of development was triggered by the Bretton Woods Economic Summit which resulted to the creation of the IMF and the World Bank. In an environment chiseled by the assumptions of capitalism, inevitably, development as defined by the Western culture has been circulated as the “universal path” that must be followed by other cultures in order to develop (Chodorkoff, n.d.: para. 10). This dominant approach to economic growth appears to brush aside the fact that it may be risky to generalize the ‘steps to development’ given a diverse set of nations in terms of history, culture, and institutional, social, and administrative structures.

However economic development (the view promulgated by the West) appears on the surface, the subtext is this” “values that are increasingly rational, tolerant, trusting and participatory” are uppermost in importance (Inglehart and Baker, 200 cited in Thompson, 2001: para.25). The accrual of wealth of the affluent nations also meant increased human control of the environment and life became equivalent to a “technical, mechanical, rationalized, bureaucratic world directed toward the external problem of creating and dominating the environment” (Bell, 1973:148-149 cited in Thompson para. 25). One of the assumptions of the contemporary market system would result to an increase in global wealth and a rebalancing of the highly-skewed income distribution between the North and South (Chodorkoff, n.d. : para.3). howver, as remarked by Vandana Shiva, “development as capital accumulation and the commercialization of the economy for the generation of surplus and profits thus involved the reproduction not merely of the particular form of the creation of wealth, but also the associated creation of poverty and dispossession” (Shiva, 1988 cited in Chodorkoff, n.d. : para. 14). Paradoxically, the aftermath of following the economic path of the wealthy nations turned out to be an inversion from its supposed benefits. The world has not yet been able to metamorphose into a world of reduced diaparities across and within countries.

The modern concept of development is, by no means, the only theory of development that exists however marginalized the alternative approaches may be. The belief that “income and wealth are not ends in themselves but instruments for other purposes” take us far back in the past, to the time of Aristotle. One of the contemporary approaches that is subsumed under this belief is Amartya Sen’s Capabilities Approach. This approach to economic development puts primacy on the ‘capability to function’ criteria in determining the economic status of a person. Sen argues that the role of material possession in economic growth should be relegated; what must be foremost in importance is “what a person is, or can be, and does o(Todaro and Smith, 2003: 18-20)r can do”. In consonance with this, the concept of functioning or the serviceability of commodities is also significant. What can be gathered from Sen’s approach is that income alone cannot explain the phenomenon of “growth without development”. Increase in income, GNP, or other economic growth indicators are ineffectual in upgrading substandard education and health services in numerous less developed countries. The capabilities approach not only takes into consideration the role of economic indicators, it prioritizes the significance of improvements in the provision of health and educational services in ascertaining the development of an area.

The dominance of the ethnocentric development theories means that their hegemonic position is an obstruction to the efforts of the alternative models to reduce the highly-unequal wealth distribution of the capitalist system of rich country-poor country relationships. But through staunch resistance, we may be able to put an end to this.

            Chodorkoff, Daniel. No date. Redefining Development. Retrieved June 27, 2008 from www.democracynature.org/dn/vol3/chodorkoff_development.htm

            Thompson, Herb. (2001). Culture and Economic Development: Modernisation to Globalisation. Retrieved June 27, 2008 from theoryandscience.icaap.org/content/vol002.002/Thompson.html

            Todaro, Michael P. and Smith, Stephen C. (2003). Economic Development. Singapore: Pearson Education Asia.

Kapitalismo at ang Pagiging Diskontento ng mga Tao

ni: Jennylyn F. Quinto

       Hubad ang lipunan hindi lamang sa Pilipinas kundi sa buong mundo kung ating pagtutuunan ng pansin ang paraan ng paggastos ng mga mamamayan. Nauso noon ang betamax na naging VCD player at ngaun ay DVD player naman; ang baston na pantalon, na naging straight cut, elephant cut at ngayon ay skinny jeans naman na kung tawagin; at pahuhuli ba naman ang radyo na naging walkman at kung tawagin ngayon eh mp3 o mp4 na? Tama! Bilang isang nilalang at magaaral ng Agham Panlipunan ay ganyan ko nasasalamin ang paraan ng pagkonsumo ng mga tao – mabilis na tayong magsawa, at magpalit ng nakasanayang gamit matugunan lamang ang ating panandaliang pananabik sa kaligayahan at upang masabay lamang sa uso – oo, ganoon na nga tayo kagastos!

Dati-rati, napagaralan ko sa klase noong ako’y nasa mababang paaralan pa lamang na ang sistema ng palitan ng produkto sa ating bansa noon at sa ibang bansa ay barter kung saan ang mga ‘kailangan at importanteng’ bagay na kailangan ng mga mamamayan ay siyang ipinapalit sa mga produkto nating ‘kailangan at importante’ rin sa kanila. Lubos akong naniniwala na isa ang kapitalismo (isang konsepto kung saan ang tanging hangad ng mga kapitalista – mangangalakal at kadalasa’y mayayaman – ay palakihin ang kanilang kita) sa mga dahilan ng biglaang pamamaraan ng paggastos sa pagkonsumo ng produkto ang mga mamamayan.

Ang kapitalismo ay sinimulan ng mga taga Gitnang Silangan at mga Kanluranin noong Middle Ages[1]. Ang kapitalismo ay umusbong upang ‘matugunan’ ang ‘pangangailangan’ ng tatlong pangunahing miyembro ng lipunan – ang kapitalista, manggagawa, lalo na ng mga mamimili.[2]

        Napakagaling ng mga tao sa likod ng kapitalismo dahil sa industriya nang pangangalakal ay nakuha nila ang isip ng mga mamimili at kayang-kaya nilang manipulahin ang isip at ang susunod na gagawin ng mga ito sa oras na makagawa sila ng bagong produkto at naipalabas na sa advertisement na nais ipabili sa atin nang paborito nating artista upang lahat sila ay kumita. Sa madaling salita, namamanipula na tayo ng mga kapitalista. Napakagaling ng kanilang taktikang iparamdam sa mga mamamayan na ang taglay nilang mga bagay o gadgets ay kupas na at kailangan nang mapalitan para masabing ‘ín’ at sabay ka sa uso. Sa ganitong paraan ay nagagawa nilang gumawa ng mga produkto sa lahat ng edad – mapabata at matatanda – para maramdaman ng mga mamamayan na kailangan ng palitan ang kanilang nakasanayan. Ang hangad nila ay magpayaman ng magpayaman, samantalang ang mga manggagawa ay nagtratrabaho lamang upang kumita ng pera, makabili din ng mga produktong kanilang nais at higit sa lahat buhayin ang kanilang pamilya. Samantala, ang mga mamimili naman ay tila mga asong robot na kumakagat naman sa mga pakulo ng mga kapitalista. Paano, paano tayo napapasunod ng mga kapitalista sa kanilang mga planong disenyo para sila ay kumita at lalong yumaman?

Sinabi ni Stuart Ewen sa kanyang artikulong “Waste A Lot Want A Lot” ang mga sumusunod na mga pahayag:

“Each day of the year, New York City disposes of 14,329 tons of garbage. Miami generates 7,445 tons; Los Angeles, 6,193 tons; Chicago, 5,985 tons; and Dallas, 1,948 tons of garbage per day.”[3]

        Sa ganitong paraan ko nais iparating ang pagmamanipula ng mga kapitalista sa mga mamamayan, hindi lamang sa Estados Unidos kundi sa buong mundo. Bagama’t isa sila sa mga nagsimula ng kapitalista ay halatang pati ang kanilang mga mamamayan ay napapasunod na rin sa sistema ng mga kapitalista – lahat tayo mahirap man o mayaman ay nais nilang pasunurin.

Napakandang halimbawa ng sinasabi ni Ewens na basura sa kanilang bansa dahil isang basehan ang basura sa pagsukat kung gaano katakaw sa pagkonsumo ang mga mamamayan sa buong mundo. Laganap din ito sa Pilipinas dahil nitong mga nakaraang taon ay nagkakaroon ng mga proyekto ang pamahalaan kung pano aayusin ang mga basura (hal. segregation) sa lahat ng kapuluan. Bilang karagdagan ay sinabi rin ni Ewen na ang kadalasang laman ng basurahan ay mga pinagbalutan (o packaging) ng mga bagay-bagay na kanilang nabili. Kanyang binigyang diin ang pagwawaalang bahala ng mga tao sa kanilang mga pagmamay-ari o “little sense of personal belongings” – kapag mayroong bagong labas na modelo ng isang pridukto (hal. mp3, mp4, iPod, PSP at iba pa) ay saan mo pa ba matatagpuan ang mga ‘lumang’ gamit? Kung hindi ito pakalat-kalat sa bahay ay tiyak nasa basurahan na ito dahil wala nang magtatangkang gamitin itong muli dahil sa takot na mapagtawanan. Lalo niya itong binigyan nang diin noong sinabi niyang ang mga tao ngayon ay hindi na masyadong pinagtutuunan ng pansin ang “sentimental value” ng isang bagay dahil madali nilang ipagpalit ang isang bagay para sa isang bagong.[4]

Ang nais ko lang ipagdiinan dito ay ang pagiging diskontento ng mga mamamayan sa kung ano ang meron sila. Mahirap mang aminin ngunit madali tayong matangay ng agos ng kung ano ang meron ang ibang tao at ng buong mundo. Naipababawan tayo ng mga kapitalista – pinamumunuan nila ang bawat buhay ng mga tao.

Hindi ba’t may sarili namang pag-iisip ang mga tao upang malaman kung ano talaga ang mga bagay na kailangan nila at hindi nila kailangan? Ako, bilang isang tao ay marunong kontrolin ang aking sarili sa tuwing may mga bagay na nais kong bilhin. Iniisip ko muna kung ang mga bagay bang nais kong bilhin ay importante bago ko bilhin ang mga ito. Kung ako bilang isang normal na tao ay nagagawa kong kontrolin ang aking sarili, naniniwala akong likas din itong katangian ng iba. Naniniwala akong kaya ng bawat isa sa atin ang magtimpi sa mga bagay-bagay na panandaliang kaligayahan lamang ang kayang ibigay sa atin. Naniniwala akong alam natin kung ano ang ‘kailangan lamang’ natin at kaya nating ito lamang ang ating bilhin upang hindi tayo patuloy na makulong sa pamumuno ng mga kapitalista.

Hindi naman lahat ng sisi ay dapat ipunta sa mga kapitalista. Naisip nila ang mga mapamanipulang taktika – mula sa packaging, target na mga mamimili, paano mangumbinsi sa pamamagitan ng adverteisement at iba pa – na atin namang kinagat. Kung baga, para nila tayong pinagekperimentohan. Pinagmasdan nila ang ating pagtugon sa mga taktikang kanilang ginawa – at ang bawat taktika pa nilang ginagawa ay binabase nila sa kung paano tayo rumisponda sa kanilang mga nakaraang taktika. Malamang, kung hindi tayo masyadong nae-excite sa kanilang mga susunod na produkto ay hindi sila gagawa nang gagawa ng mga panibagong modelong ating susubaybayan. At maaari ring malaman nila na hindi panandaliang kaligayahan an gating nais. Kung ating ipagdidiinang ipakita sa ating mga gawi na ang kailangan o basic needs lamang natin ang nais nating Makita at bilhin ay babalik tayo sa sistemang mga basic needs lamang din ang kanilang iaangakat at ating iaangkat sa ibang bansa. Sa ganitong paraan ay maipaparating nating hindi naman talaga natin kailangan ang kanilang mga bagong gawang produktong nagpaparami lamang ng basura sa buong mundo. At sa bandang huli’y lahat ay makikinabang at walang taong nilalamangan.

[1] Jairus Banaji (2007), "Islam, the Mediterranean and the rise of capitalism", Journal Historical Materialism 15 (1), p. 47-74, Brill Publishers.
[2] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, “Capitalism: A Very Special Delirium”, retrieved June 30, 2008 from http://www.generation-online.org/p/fpdeleuze7.htm
[3] Stuart Ewen, “Waste  A Lot, Want A Lot: Our All Consuming Quest for Style”, retrieved June 15, 2008 from http://www.empathicparenting.org/daycare/waste.htm
[4] Ibid.

A Cultural Critique of Development

by: Fatima Gail M. Eslava

        The prevailing classification of countries into “First, Second, Third and Fourth World economies” had been refuted by the concerned “Third (and Fourth) World” countries and had been fought for a more politically correct term. Developed and developing countries are sometimes used by economists and other intellectuals to generally categorize countries. However as Sergio Barzadi asserts “”Third World” remains a useful label for a conglomeration of countries otherwise difficult to categorize.”[1]

This classification arose during the cold war in 1900’s between United States and USSR . “Third World” countries were those countries which didn’t belong to either United States (“First World”) or USSR (“ Second World ”). “ Third World ” countries were considered as those countries which cannot achieve development.

Development was defined and based on economic terms only. “ First World ” countries had been designated to be technologically advanced, highly-industrialized and capital intensive. However, I think development t should not only consist of technological advancement and industrialization per se. What I perceive as development is not only based on gross national product (GNP), national income and the like, it should be an integrated growth of a country not just measured by what they ca;; “real terms.” Development should not only be based on numerical values but also on qualitative measures.

“ Third World ” is a very general description for countries which are “less developed,” mostly agricultural countries. First, second, third and fourth as we had learned from our primary education entail rank or hierarchy. That is why those who belong to the “ Third World ” economies look at the term as “oppressive.” As a citizen belonging to the “Third World” country, I think those countries like the Philippines have conflicts over the preservation of indigenous cultures and concept of development of the West. What I’m trying to say is the attained development of the West may not be applicable for the “South.” Development as I said earlier is not only quantitative. In addition, development is contextual. Some less developed countries may concern on their indigenous cultures for industrialization can change the daily routines, unique traditions and cultures of concerned ethnic groups.

The development that is portrayed by the West is attained because of their strategies that may not be applicable for Asia, Latin America and Africa . Natural resources, equipment, interests of people, culture, government and the financial capacity of the country and the like should be considered. One country should start not entirely and completely based on the strategies of the Western countries. What I mean here is that in order for a country to develop it should consider the talents and skills of its people and the available natural and capital resources. I believe that there’s nothing wrong on being an agricultural nation. One must consider that each country depends on each other by trading basic commodities and other products. Industrialization and commercialization of lands have cause sufferings and laments to the agricultural sectors. Yes, we need to innovate the tools and products for the crops but we should not forget that we need food… we need “real” food. Industrialization is just one aspect of development. One has to realize that no one could live without the agricultural sector.

Development should not be based on demographic terms such as GDP growth, literacy rate, employment rate, etc. but also how people in a particular country perceive their quality of living not based on other countries’ performance but specific country’s previous performances. Development as Todaro described is therefore a “multidimensional process. It is integrated and accumulated growth of a certain country.

Despite the existing of other theories or suggestions on how to classify countries, the first - world, second - world and third - world categories are more often used. The “Neocolonial Dependence Model” insists that there is a “coexistence of rich and poor nations in an international system dominated by such unequal power relationships between the center (the developed countries) and the periphery ( the Less Developed Countries) renders attempts by poor nations to be self-reliant and independent difficult and sometimes impossible.”[2] This model portrays an international system that is basically supported by the elite countries. The developing countries are constrained in some aspects of their economic performance because of the unequal chances and competition occurring in this international system. In addition this model argues that industrialization may happen in some countries which could restrict other countries to be industrialized. Thereby, those countries which are industrialized become the centers of the world’s trade and industries. By their economic power, these countries gain influences and powers over the distribution of goods and commodities of the periphery. The periphery may not escape their prevailing situation because of their natural resources and overrule of the centers. The ultimate argument of this model is that “underdevelopment is externally induced phenomenon.” Therefore, as I insisted a way back development should be contextual and case – to – case basis.

        The second model for development is the “false – paradigm model.” This model “attributes underdevelopment to faulty and inappropriate advice provided by well-meaning but often uninformed, biases, and ethnocentric international “expert” advisers from developed-country assistance agencies and multinational donor organizations.” Development should thereby be culturally-relativistic phenomenon. Development of developing countries should be based on the perceived development of developed countries. Each country has its own ways of achieving and defining development. Real problems of developing countries have to be realized by their own economists and intellectuals. Real issues and problems are overshadowed by the developed countries insistence of industrialization; whereas industrialization may not be the appropriate solution to the economic problems of a country.

The third and last highlighted model in this essay is the “Dualistic Development Thesis.” Dualism “represents the existence and persistence of increasing divergences between rich and poor nations and rich and poor peoples on various levels.”[3] There is an increasing gap between rich and poor countries and rich and poor people especially in developing countries. There is always an existing dualism within and among countries such as elite over poor countries, educated versus illiterate people and the like. The abolition of superiority and inferiority may not be possible and hard to achieve. Inequalities between and among countries can not be healed with time. This dualism tends to persist more with time.

With the prevailing though of categorizing countries into first, second, third and fourth world, qualitative development has been ignored. Development of countries is entirely based on the quantitative aspect rather than on both qualitative and quantitative. The ideology that developing countries should aspire to be developed has ignored the fact that every country has unique resources and capabilities. Real issues and problems, such as the increasing gap of wealthy and poor countries and people, have been overshadowed by the concern on achieving the development concept of the West.

Sergio Bazardi. “ Third World .” Microsoft Encarta Reference Library 2004.

Todaro,  Michael. Economic Development, 8th ed.  Singapore : Pearson Education, Asia Pte Ltd., 2003.

[1] Sergio Bazardi. “ Third World .” Microsoft Encarta Reference Library 2004.
[2]Michael Todaro. Economic Development, 8th ed.  Singapore : Pearson Education, Asia Pte Ltd., 2003: p. 124.
[3] Michael Todaro. Economic Development, 8th ed.  Singapore : Pearson Education, Asia Pte Ltd., 2003: p. 126.